Bhutan's annual Royal Highland Festival set to feature cultural programs by the Layap people

The two-day-long festival will be held from October 23-24, 2023 at Laya in the Gasa district

author_img IANS Published :  12th September 2023 07:05 PM   |   Published :   |  12th September 2023 07:05 PM
Photo Credits: IANS

Photo Credits: IANS

Bhutan's Department of Tourism (DOT) has confirmed that the annual Royal Highland Festival will be held from October 23-24, 2023 at Laya in the Gasa district. Located in the extreme northwest of Bhutan, Gasa district is home to some of the highest mountain peaks in the country. Over a hundred glacial lakes that are found at the foot of these mountains feed some of the biggest rivers in the country, including the Phochu and Mochu Rivers.

The festival, held at an elevation of 3,800m above sea level, aims to celebrate, promote and preserve the life and culture of the nomadic highland people of Bhutan, support their economy, exhibit the beauty and wonders of the highlands, and laud the resilience of the highlanders.

The two-day highland festival is a beautiful and thrilling event that features cultural and entertainment programs by the Layap people, the local residents of Laya, showcasing their own unique culture, tradition and dresses. There will be parades, games, races and competitions with highland animals such as yaks, horses and mastiffs; the animals will be dressed in colourful elaborate accessories. The festival will also feature textile and souvenir stalls, and food stalls displaying local cuisines such as dried yak cheese, butter and alcoholic beverages.

It’s a whole adventure to reach the festival ground in Laya; a total of 7-hour drive from Thimphu to the Tongshida base camp followed by a 4-hour hike to Laya with aqua green glacial river along the trail and a 30-minute hike every morning to the festival ground! If the trek sounds too difficult, visitors also have the option of availing the helicopter service to reach the location.

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With an elevation ranging between 1,500 to 4,500m above sea level, the whole Gasa district falls under the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Park and is home to various species of birds and animals such as yak, musk deer, blue sheep, snow leopard, red pandas, snow pigeons, Himalayan black bear, and the national bird and animal of Bhutan, raven and takin.

Gasa is home to some of the most beautiful and breathtaking high mountain trails in the country, from wide stretches of the famous Snowman trek to the high-altitude trails that take you close to the glacial lakes. The beautiful alpine ecosystem in this region is rich in many species of medicinal plants and herbs used in traditional medicine, including the famous cordyceps. It also has abundant natural hot springs and menchu (medicinal water) that are famous for their healing and medicinal properties. The highlanders mostly rely on livestock, particularly the rearing of yaks.

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“The Royal Highland Festival is one of the most popular annual festivals in the country. Every year, hundreds of people from across the country as well as foreign visitors trek the stunning trails among the Himalayan mountains to attend the festival. Two days of dancing, music, local arts and crafts, and animal parades, the festival celebrates the culture and lifestyle of people who live in the beautiful highlands of Bhutan. Our hope is to raise awareness of Bhutan’s commitment to conserve the glacial mountains, and for visitors to learn and experience the unique culture, traditions and daily lives of the highland people,” concluded Dorji Dhradhul, the Director General of the Department of Tourism.